GARY | Indiana's charter school movement is a bad gamble for poor and disadvantaged students, the former Merrillville school superintendent told members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.
Tony Lux denounced what he calls Indiana's "open air market" in education, saying it has failed to reduce the number of students performing below grade level.
"Choice may not result in good choice, and charter schools are not guaranteed of success. They don't have special teachers others don't have or special strategies."
He spoke Friday before the 16th annual Black Caucus Legislative Symposium at Indiana University Northwest. State, county and municipal officials attended, as did John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., county Democratic chairman, was among the welcoming speakers.
"There is a lot of backwards thinking in Indianapolis, and we have an ally downstate in you guys. Thank you for all your hard work standing up for our urban communities," he said.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she is hoping to develop a lab school in Gary with IUN.
Lux retired this summer as superintendent of Merrillville schools after 29 years in a school district that has one of the most diverse student bodies in the state and whose students — grades three through eight — posted the highest-passing percentage on the 2012 ISTEP+ testing in state history.
Lux said he isn't criticizing individual charter schools, but he does take issue with the state forgiving $91.2 million in loans to charter schools.
He also noted the recent scandal in which former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett improved the overall grade of a charter school owned by a Republican Party donor.
He said the state should be spending public money establishing financial equity among schools and funding compulsory summer school for underachievers.
Lux said too many Hoosier policymakers put their faith in charter schools and watered down licensing standards for educators to help staff such schools.